On Why Luis Posada Carriles Will Not Be Extradited

One of the most dangerous men of the last half of the 20th century sits out on Montana Avenue, in El Paso, Texas, in a detention center just a short distance from the Mexican-U.S. border. But the danger he presents is variegated; he is dangerous to different people in different ways.  The most obvious threat he presented in the past was to Leftists in Central and South America, where he killed scores of their number and plotted bombings and murders for over four decades. As early as 1965, Luis Posada was receiving money to engage in terrorist activities.  An asset of the CIA at the same time he was committing these acts, one FBI memorandum relates that, "Luis Posada Carriles stated on June 25 last that Jorge Mas Canosa of the RECE had paid him $5,000 to cover the expenses of a demolition operation in Mexico.  Posada said he was planning to place limpet mines on either a Cuban or Soviet vessel in the harbor of Veracruz, Mexico and had 100 pounds of C-4 explosives and detonators." Overwhelming evidence demonstrates Posada’s involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner that took 73 lives, and as recently as 2000 he was arrested with thirty-three pounds of C-4 explosive in an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Convicted  of a lesser offense in the arrest in Panama it is widely believed that his pardon by President Mireya Moscoso in November, 2004, was forced by the Bush Administration.  And this speculation concerning the cause of Posada’s pardon is instructive, for even if untrue it demonstrates what sort of danger he has now become.  Despite all of his murders and destruction, Posada is presently most dangerous for what he knows and what may be done with him if he escapes the protection of the United States.

Venezuela is formally pursuing Posada’s extradition for his involvement with the Cubana Airlines tragedy, but there is no chance that President George W. Bush will turn Posada over to any foreign sovereign.  At the end of Posada’s hearing this week on asylum and application for protection against extradition and deportation under the Convention Against Torture, Judge William Abbott found that Posada was not, as the evidence presently stands, extraditable to Venezuela.  Abbott said that since the U.S. Government presently refuses to put evidence on that Posada would not be tortured in Venezuela, he had little choice but to find that Posada’s evidence, in the form of testimony from intelligence operative and attorney Joaquín Fernando Chaffardet Ramos, was sufficient to support a ruling in favor of Posada.

But the legal arguments are superfluous and the hearing irrelevant to the disposition of Posada.  Those decisions will be made at the highest levels of the Bush Administration and will be done with an eye to politics and history, rather than to law.  There are several reasons, any one of which is in itself sufficient, why Posada will never leave the United States again.

First, Posada simply knows too much about the United States’ past as a facilitator and instigator of terrorism in Central and South America.  It is inconceivable that the Bush Administration would give a foreign sovereign the opportunity to extract from Posada damning information about the United States.  The hatred of Fidel Castro and of Leftists in Central and South America is an important feature of the Bush family dynasty, and the intersections between that dynasty and Posada are numerous and tantalizing, if not telling.  No Bush clan member could ever survive the shame of being the one who decided to send such an ally and partner as Posada into the arms of the Dynasty’s enemies.   And Posada’s involvement in running the Contra operation for Vice-President George H.W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan would in and of itself provide sufficient reason to keep him out of the clutches of Hugo Chávez.

Second, if returned to Venezuela, officials could simply manufacture statements embarrassing to the United States and claim that they came from interrogations of Posada.  The present animosity between the governments of Venezuela and the United States could make Posada too tempting of an opportunity to for Chávez to bypass.  The potential for embarrassment to the United States would be open-ended.

Finally, and most important, there are hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles and their descendants living in Florida, a key state in any presidential election.  These Cubans have overwhelmingly voted for conservative, anti-Leftist candidates who promise to take a hard line with the Castro regime.  If President George W. Bush were to send Posada back to Venezuela, it is possible that President Chávez would turn Posada over to Castro.  This would be an outrage of astonishing proportions to the Cuban community in Florida and would severely damage the Republican Party, the party of the Bush Dynasty.  The consequences would be even closer to the hearth if Jeb Bush, George W. Bush’s brother and current governor of Florida, were a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for President.  Jeb Bush, who successfully lobbied his father to free Posada’s fellow terrorist, Orlando Bosch, in 1990, would see his political future fatally crippled if his brother caused Posada to end up in Castro’s hands.  All of the years the Bush’s had spent ingratiating themselves to the exile Cuban community would be lost.

It is little wonder that Posada is enjoying himself and seems hardly worried about extradition, though at one point during a break in his cross-examination on Wednesday he asked his attorney, "Am I defending myself well?"  In the end, it does not matter how well Posada defends himself, for his fate hangs not with legal acumen and competence, but with political calculation, and the odds are overwhelmingly in his favor.

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